Misgivings about the Christian Faith
Do Paul's conversion stories contradict each other in the book of Acts?

How Greek Grammar Resolves this Issue

Defining and understanding the word, “contradiction


Is the book of Acts contradictory in regards to the Apostle Paul's conversion story?

The contradiction charge relates only to the men traveling with Saul of Tarsus. Acts 9:7 states that the men heard a voice. In contrast, Acts 22:9 states that the men did not hear or understand the voice.

Various "English" translations of the original Greek reveal a potential contradiction. People opposed to the Bible choose to believe there is a contradiction. Can this contradiction be explained?

To begin, it is important to understand that the belief that the book of Acts has a contradiction is not related to the Apostle Paul's personal conversion story. This is an important point based on the fact that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, traveled with the Apostle Paul. Luke and Paul probably discussed the conversion story in depth. And Luke has been verified to be an accurate historican based on archaeological evidence with a correlation at the 99.9% confidence level (less than 1 chance in 1000 that we are being misled).

External evidence with large numbers of ancient artifacts verifies that the book of Acts is accurate. To explain what non-believers refer to as a contradiction requires an understanding of Greek grammar for the word, "to hear".

"Do you always understand the words spoken by other people?"

Everyday conversations and interactions support that people do not always accurately hear what others are saying. Sometimes, we only hear a voice, not the words. It should not be a surprise that Greek grammar permits this type of translation for the men that traveled with Saul of Tarsus.

The scholar, Gleason L. Archer, uses this distinction to explain the text.

Greek makes a distinction between hearing a sound as a noise (in which case the verb "to hear" takes the genitive case) in contrast with hearing a voice as a thought-conveying message (in which the verb "to hear" takes the accusative case).1

Dr. Archer makes reference to a Greek grammar2 text book to support this technical distinction in Greek. Below is a scanned portion of this Greek grammar text book, which validates that a verb can affect the object in part.

Moreover, the Greek grammar3 reference below supports that the verb to hear is one of the many verbs that can be used with the partitive genitive case.

Therefore, the men traveling with Saul of Tarsus heard a voice, but did not understand the words spoken. Only Saul of Tarsus heard and understood the words spoken based on the way that Luke reported the conversion story. There is no contradiction based on accepted use of Greek grammar.

In support of this conclusion, Strong's Concordance reference for Greek word #191 "to hear" can be translated into English from Greek as the word, "understand" (click here for Strong's Word #191).

Bible translators have used the English word "understand" for the Greek word "to hear" in 1 Corinthians 14:2 (the genitive case for the Greek word to hear).

"For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries" (1 Corinthians. 14:2).

Non-believers may insist that there is a contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. However, Greek grammar explains the two passages showing no contradiction. Moreover, archaeological evidence supports at the 99.9% confidence level that there is no contradiction in the texts as written by Luke.

It is important to understand that physical evidence (data) validates the book of Acts. People who insist there is a contradiction base their belief on circular reasoning since they have no data to support their accusation.


Contradiction #2
Did the men traveling with Saul of Tarsus
see a bright light?

Because skeptics like to use the word “contradiction” in their attempts to demean the Bible, it is important to understand the definition. This approach will ensure that we are all in agreement about using this word. Below are two wikipedia definitions.

  1. Contradiction” asserts its own opposite.
  2. In logic, a “Contradiction” consists of a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. It occurs when the propositions, taken together, yield two conclusions which form the logical inversions of each other.

Just as important, I will make use of the words, “supplements” or “augments”. In reality, the stories written in the book of Acts provide supplementary information to describe what actually occurred when Saul of Tarsus was confronted by the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. Consider wikipedia definitions for the words supplement or augment.

  1. Supplement” is something added, especially to make up for a deficiency.
  2. Augment” To increase, make larger or supplement.

Using the definitions above, let's consider the skeptic accusation that the book of Acts contains contradictions.

"...there is a contradiction in the book of Acts 9:7 compared to Acts 22:9. The skeptic then quotes from various English translations in his attempt to support this viewpoint.

The men with Paul didn't see anything [Acts 9:7]
The men with Paul saw the light [Acts 22:9]

Do these verses actually make contradictory statements?

Again, I quote from the Interlinear Study Bible, which is a close to perfect translation into English from the original ancient Greek. (you can click on the link to verify the translation)

  • "The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one" [Acts 9:7].
  • "And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me" [Acts 22:9].

In Acts 9:7, the original Greek is silent about the men seeing a bright light. However Acts 9:7 verifies that the companions could not see the person that was speaking, which requires us to ask "WHY?" Acts 22:9 augments Acts 9:7 by stating that the companions of Saul of Tarsus saw the bright light from which a Voice came.

The scholar, Dr. Gleason Archer comments on these verses. Consider the words of a scholar that knows Ancient Greek literature.

There is an instructive parallel here between the inability to hear the voice as an articulated message and their inability to see the glory of the risen Lord as anything but a blaze of light. Acts 22:9 says that they saw the light, but Acts 9:7 makes it clear that they did not see the Person who displayed Himself in the light. There is a clear analogy between these differing levels of perception in each case.4

The skeptic's accusation that there is a contradiction is based on the desire to find a contradiction in the story. Skeptics show that they do not understand or use the word “contradiction” correctly.

At this time, let me illustrate what an actual contradiction would have to be like to make the book of Acts contradictory.

  • Acts 9:7 would have to state that "The men who traveled with Saul of Tarsus did NOT see a bright light.
  • Acts 9:7 would have to state that "The men who traveled with Saul of Tarsus DID see a bright light."

These contradictory statements are not written into the book of Acts. Therefore, the accusation that the book of Acts is contradictory is baseless.

Finally, when the more accurate translation from Ancient Greek into English is used for the book of Acts, we find that there is absolutely no contradiction. In fact, the correct word that describes the difference between all these verses would be the word, “supplements” or “augments”. In other words, each verse supplies more details about what actually happened. Intellectually honest people will conclude based on biblical literature and logic that there are absolutely no contradictions in the book of Acts in regards to the conversion story of Saul of Tarsus.

I also think it is important to gain insight into what this story reveals about the spiritual reality. For example, "What is the spiritual world like based on the Saul of Tarsus conversion story?"

At the end of this discussion, I will compare the conversion story of Saul of Tarsus to the revelations that Muhammad received as reported by his favorite wife, Ayesha. What a contrast we will find.


Contradiction #3
Who fell to the ground?

A skeptic writes "...there is a contradiction in the book of Acts 22:7 compared to Acts 26:14. The skeptic then quotes from various English translations in his attempt to support this viewpoint.

Paul alone fell to the ground [Acts 22:7]
Every body fell on the ground [Acts 26:14]

Do these verses actually make contradictory statements?

Again, I quote from the Interlinear Study Bible, which is a close to perfect translation into English from the original ancient Greek. (you can click on the link to verify the translation)

  • "and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'" [Acts 22:7].
  • "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" [Acts 26:14].

There are two issues with the skeptic's accusation. First, the information given between Acts 22 and Acts 26 is supplementary, not contradictory. Second, the skeptic's accusation is based on taking the text in the book of Acts out of context.

What would be required for the text to be contradictory?

  • Acts 22:7 would have to state that "The men who traveled with Saul of Tarsus did NOT fall to the ground." (Acts 22:7 is silent, not contradictory)
  • Acts 26:14 would have to state that "The men who traveled with Saul of Tarsus DID fall to the ground."

These contradictory statements are not written into the book of Acts. Therefore, the accusation that the book of Acts is contradictory is baseless.

Finally, it is important to understand that skeptics are attempting to demean the book of Acts by taking the words out of context. In Acts chapter 22, Paul is addressing a large crowd near the temple as he was being arrested. In Acts 22, Paul tells the story about himself because they are arresting only the Apostle Paul. The story line does not include the companions of the Apostle Paul up to the point that Paul has been blinded by the bright light and needs help to be led into Damascus. The text differences between Acts 22 (click on each link to read and contrast the entire chapter in the book of Acts) and Acts 26 are written from different perspectives. The differences are supplemental, not contradictory.

The context of the story told in Acts 26 includes the entire entourage of people. The differences between the two chapters reveal supplementary information about what actually happened. There is really no contradiction in these texts except in the biased mind of skepticism.

In conclusion, the correct word to use in comparing these two verses is “supplements” or “augments”. Using the word “contradiction” again shows flawed logic.


Conclusion
Book of Acts is Credible

Therefore, we can conclude that the conversion story for Saul of Tarsus does not contain any contradictions. The story line written into the book of Acts is credible at the 99.9% confidence level because the texts are verified by archaeological and other physical evidence. Support for this conclusion is based on the research of the classic scholar, Dr. Colin Hemer, author of The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History5.

Based on evidence and scholarly analysis, we know that the mission trips of the Apostle Paul actually happened as written. Therefore, to believe and accept the spiritual stories written into Acts requires only a small amount of faith.

Finally, because the conversion of story of Saul of Tarsus (supreme skeptic of Jesus Christ), who became the Apostle Paul is credible, we can compare the Christian faith to the Islamic faith using mathematical tools.


Comparing the Qur'an and the Bible
Mathematical Requirements

To realistically compare Christian faith to Islamic faith requires the following items:

  • Both the Qur’an and the Bible must discuss the same subject (i.e.: Jesus dying on the cross)
  • The Qur’an and the Bible must present diametrically opposite viewpoints on that specific subject (i.e.: Jesus dying on the cross)
  • There must be physical evidence (i.e.: archaeological evidence, analyzed by scholars, such as Dr. Colin Hemer, author of The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History6) that can be used to make valid calculations.

Since the conditions above are all satisfied, we can logically arrive at a valid conclusion that reveals the Bible is valid and that the Qur'an is false. That is why it is credible to state Jesus’ death on the cross is credible at the 99.9999998% confidence level.

Archaeological evidence supports the book of Acts is accurate. The evidence supports that the supreme skeptic of all, Saul of Tarsus, a terrorist of Christians, repented when he was confronted by the real Jesus, who died and rose again as foretold by the Old Testament Prophets.

The bottom line is that the book of Acts is a set of words written by Luke. Archaeological evidence supports that the travels of the Apostle Paul actually took place due to 162 items out of 165 being verified. A fanatical skeptic became a Christian when confronted by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again. The Apostle Paul reported that Jesus died and rose again, only after his experience on the road to Damascus.

In contrast, only the Qur’an, recorded on paper more than 600 years later claims that Jesus did NOT die on the cross. To date, not even ONE archaeological item has been uncovered to support the Islamic viewpoint as written in the Qur’an. Due to no external archaeological evidence, the Qur’an resembles the book of Mormon. There is truly no reason to place any faith in the Qur’an or the book of Mormon as coming from God except by blind faith, which leads to self-deception.

In fact, since the Qur’an contains a diametrically opposite message in respect to the message found in the entire Bible, intellectually honest people conclude that the source of the Qur’an is also diametrically opposite of the Bible.

Muhammad claimed that he received the Qur'an from the Archangel Gabriel. However, the message in the Qur'an is diametrically opposite the words recorded by Daniel the prophet, who also claims to have received words from the Archangel Gabriel. Based on diametrically opposing messages, intellectually honest people will conclude that the Gabriel who spoke to Muhammad is NOT the Archangel Gabriel that spoke to Daniel the Prophet. The diametrical messages found in the Qur'an and the book of Daniel (using archaeological evidence uncovered to date, analyzed by true scholars such as Dr. Colin Hemer, author of The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History7) supports that there is a spiritual battle between God fearing holy angels and fallen angels. (Not a large assumption based on the fact that war has pervaded the human race for millennia).

Consider the evidence that the Qur'an does not come from God.

  1. Archaeological evidence supports that Muhammad's view of Jesus NOT dying on the cross is false at the at the 99.9999998% confidence level
  2. Muhammad could not foretell the future since his spiritual source was not from the Creator, who exists outside time-space.
  3. Logic supports that the false Gabriel would also present a message diametrically opposite of the one true God, which is evident based on the opposing views of Jesus dying on the cross.
  4. Based on accurately and consistently foretelling the future. Daniel heard from the true Archangel Gabriel.
  5. Muslim reports by the companions and wives of Muhammad support that Muhammad experienced temporary possession when he received the Qur'an revelation.


References for Research:

1: Archer, Gleason L., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties; ©1982 by Zondervan, page 382.

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2: Goodwin, W.W. and Gulick, C.B., Greek Grammar; ©1930 by Boston: Ginn & Co., #1097, page 232.

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3: Goodwin, W.W. and Gulick, C.B., Greek Grammar; ©1930 by Boston: Ginn & Co., #1103, page 234.

Return to Reference 3

4: Archer, Gleason L., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties; ©1982 by Zondervan, page 382.

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5, 6, or 7: Hemer, Colin J., The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, data taken from "Specific Local Knowledge" pages 109 - 158. Dr. Hemer is a classic scholar, whose research led him to conclude a written date of AD 62 for the book of Acts.

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Based on the book:
"Gabriel's Faces: voice of the Archangel"
ISBN 0-9640404-2-5